Tuesday, January 28, 2020

History of Automobile Dealerships in the Lawrence County Part 2


(Ed Note: The following article is a continuation of the history of automobile dealerships in Lawrence County begun earlier on this blog.)

2.       Lawrenceville Auto Co. One of the Eight Automobile Dealers in Lawrenceville in 1924

In 1909, Clyde Stoltz and his first partner, Charles F. Ratcliff, after some discussion, agreed that $2000 would be needed to form a partnership for the business of selling and repairing automobiles. Ratcliff was at that time a railroad machinist at Mount Carmel, and Stoltz was working in the oil fields.  Ratcliff was to keep the machines running and Stoltz was to sell them.

The two rented the room now occupied by Ryan’s Fitness Place at 720 11th Street and began selling cars. They thought that perhaps they could sell eight or ten cars the following season, and Mr. Stoltz remembered that they did, in fact, sell about that many. 

The first automobile sold by the new firm was to Robert T. Gillespie, south of Bridgeport and the price was $2,500, paid in cash.   The second sale was to J. A. Campbell of Lawrenceville for $2,580.  The extra $80 for the Campbell car was for a more efficient carbide lighting system that was ordered from a catalog and installed by Ratcliff. Stoltz sold L. C. David his first car, a Ford, and then had to teach him how to drive.  Lester B. Fish recalled that Stoltz sold a Chalmers to his family and taught them all how to drive. 

Prior to these sales, other cars had been sold in the county, including six in the city of Lawrenceville. K. J. Crackel and P. B. McCullough each owned Ramblers. F. W. Keller and J. E. McGaughey owned Wintons, Robert L. Fitch owned an Interstate, and Otis Swinehart had a Buick.

The next year, 1910, Stoltz attended the National Automobile Show in Chicago where 202 different makes of cars were on display with all kinds of wheels, steering devices, lighting systems, tops and frames. Mitchells, Banners, Marmans, Glydes, Loziers, Marions, and Whites were among those early cars. Stoltz thought that the Kissel Kar was the best automobile at that time and began selling them in Lawrence County.

The increased number of automobiles in the county forced street improvement. In 1910, Twelfth Street was paved with bricks, installed by hand one at a time, from Walnut to Cedar which was, at that time, the south city limits. There was not another foot of hard road improvement in the entire county or for that matter, in Vincennes.

Stoltz and Ratcliff are also credited with the beginning of the service station business in Lawrenceville. Gasoline was hauled to their place in 50-gallon drums from the Indian Refining Company by David Ruth who used a team of mules to pull the wagon.  The gasoline cost them eight cents per gallon and they retailed it at 10 cents. They also sold Standard Oil’s Polarine oil for 15 cents a quart.

After about a year, Charles Ratcliff’s interest was purchased by Burke Childress and soon afterwards, Childress and Stoltz erected the large white garage building on West State Street, across from New Leaf Fitness now.  In 1912, Childress sold his interest in the Lawrenceville Auto Company to Stoltz, who continued at that location until 1918. 

Early in 1918, Mr. Stoltz joined the Wabash Valley Motor Company with A. L. Maxwell and others, and sold his garage business on State Street to L. C. David. By 1924, David was the exclusive agent for the popular Dodge Car. 

To Be Continued

Monday, January 27, 2020

History of Automobile Dealerships in the Lawrence County Part 1


History of Automobile Dealerships in the Lawrence County

Both A. L. Maxwell and Clyde Stoltz claimed to have been the first automobile dealer in the county. Both started in 1909, when there were not more than a dozen automobiles in the entire county. Fifteen years later, in 1924, there were more automobiles per capita in Lawrence County than in any other county in the state. Superior salesmanship ability on the part of the automobile dealers may have been the cause for this but more likely it was because of the discovery of oil and the money that flowed into the pockets of Lawrence County residents. A newspaper reporter at the time, said that more than one family in three owned and operated a car. Clearly the history of automobiles in this county is significant.

In 1924, there were eight auto dealers in Lawrenceville: A.L. Maxwell; Lawrenceville Auto Co, Wabash Valley Motor Company, Lawrence Chevrolet Sales Co; Staninger-Nash Company; Auto Sales and Co, Middagh Motor Co. and Johnson Auto Co.  Over the next few weeks, articles will be posted about these businesses.

1.       The A. L. Maxwell Company One of the Eight Automobile Dealers in Lawrenceville in 1924

The A. L. Maxwell Company was one of the oldest automobile firms in the county. It was first organized as The A. L. Maxwell Motor Car Company, but because the name conflicted to some extent with the name of the firm that manufactured Maxwell automobiles, it was changed when the business incorporated in 1914.

From the beginning, the A.L Maxwell Company handled various makes of cars including the Maxwell, Winton, Chalmers, Glide, Reo, Hudson, Essex and Ford.  During the first year, the Maxwell Motor Car Co. sold 46 cars of all kinds, and the following season this mark was almost doubled, 87 cars being sold. The prosperity enjoyed by the automobile industry as a whole in 1913, was also shared by Mr. Maxwell, for during that season his sales totaled 205 cars. Even greater success was obtained in 1914; by August 24, Maxwell’s company sold and delivered 300 cars.

Maxwell sold Hudson and Reo cars in a 22 -county territory in Southern Illinois and Indiana. He opened branches in Vincennes and Evansville.  He was quoted as saying that “Lawrenceville, a place of 5000 to 10,000 people, has more automobiles than in any other town of like size anywhere in the country." Model T Fords were purchased dismantled by railroad carloads and assembled at the Maxwell garage; hundreds were sold.

By 1923, the company dealt exclusively in Fords, Lincolns and Fordson tractors.  That year alone, they sold more than 450 new cars, and close to 400 used cars, besides a large number of tractors.
F. W. Bristow, vice-president and manager of the company had been with the firm since 1913, starting first with the Vincennes branch. He came to Lawrenceville in 1916. Gordon Eshelman was the assistant manager, as well as sales manager, of the company.  He had been associated with the firm since about 1915. Guy Cannon was the superintendent of the service department and had been with the company for over nine years. Sales were handled by O. T. Updike, Tom Philippi, A. Petty and Ed McAndrew.

The A. L. Maxwell Company was located on State Street in the building Maxwell built specifically for his automobile business, spending $30,000 in 1909. The two- story building with concrete basement was the first such structure to be built in Lawrenceville.  Maxwell later acquired property to the west in 1919, and added more showroom and garage space onto the 111 ft. frontage already along State Street to the northwest corner of Tenth Street.

To be continued:

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Underground Railroad by Richard Day

Program at the History Center  
Monday January 27, 2020  7:00 pm
Richard Day of Vincennes 
will speak about the Underground Railroad



Sumner Press December 22 1887
John Nance, the colored barber in defiance of the Sunday law recently proclaimed by the honorable town board, opened his shop and waited on his Sunday customers as usual last Sunday. For this offense he was waited upon by Constable Umfleet in his official capacity Monday evening and ordered to answer the charge of having willfully violated said law next Monday.  Much interest is manifested in this test case.


The Vincennes Weekly Western Sun newspaper ran an article about the incident also. 
December 23, 1887 (Bridgeport, Illinois, December 20)  The town dads passed a stringent Sunday ordinance last summer, but no attention has ever been paid to it.  Last night Marshal Umfleet arrested J. A. Nance, a colored former resident of Vincennes, for shaving on Sunday and it created great excitement.  Citizens have raised a purse for his defense and the case will be made a test one, not only of the Sunday ordinances but also of the town charter.  The trial is set for next Monday.  


The outcome of the trial has not been learned yet, but we will keep you posted if the researchers have any luck finding it.  See you Monday night at the meeting. 

Friday, January 24, 2020

Happenings in Lawrence County January 21 and 22, 1920 Part Two

There was so much news in the papers the third week of January 1920, this is a continuation of  all the happenings in Lawrence County over one hundred years ago.

The Billett Chapter of the Red Cross held a sale at the Modern Woodman Hall and sold several garments, some material and two sewing machines.

St. Francisville:  There were several cases of smallpox in the city. H. C. Hanks had purchased a new Nicholas & Shepard threshing outfit.

Carey Milburn living near Bethel, had two fingers torn off in a corn shredder. 

A little son was born to Mr. and Mrs. Wilbur Armitage of Pleasant Hill neighborhood, but the little one lived only a few minutes.  Interment was made in the Pleasant Hill cemetery.

The Pleasant Hill Sunday School had 80 people in attendance and collected $4.93. Present at the White House Sunday school were 22; the offering was $1.35. there were 46 at the Upper Allison Sunday School; the offering was $2.06. The Aid Society met at Mrs. Susan Gerhart’s house.

Ben Jaffe worked for Ben Yosowitz in his store.

J. A. Stanton, who had been manager of the Jarecki Supply Store of Lawrenceville for 12 years was transferred by the company to Casey, Illinois.  The family would remain in town until June.  His job would be filled by R. E. Gillespie of Sandoval.

The want ads requested a girl for general housework, good wages, no washing; a hired man with family was needed to work on farm, preferable with a boy old enough to run a second team.  This last ad was placed by N. L. Lindsay, of Birds. Little Miss W. H. Jones, of 705 Lexington Ave, lost her doll between 7th and 8th street on Lexington; a reward would be given, if returned. (Ed Note: The curators at the History Center think they have it….just kidding. We do have over 460 dolls though.) Geo. M. Lewis, of 814 12th St, had New Zealand rabbits for sale. O. M. Davis was selling his house on East Dubois (5 rooms and a bath) because he was moving to Robinson.  (He had been a cashier at the First National Bank in Lawrenceville; Karl Glover was to replace him.)

Sale Bill for S. B. Helm January 21, 1920
S. B. Helm who owned more than 600 acres of Allison Township land,  This was one of the largest and best-known farms on the prairie. His sale bill listed several mules, horses, a cow, and some hogs, as well as a case tractor and several farm implements.   He and his one daughter still at home were buying a home in Lawrenceville where she would complete her studies at LTHS. His farm was located ¾ miles south of Allison church and he sold it for $100-160 per acre.

Mt Olive neighborhood:  Will Leathers hauled logs to the Ribley saw mill and expected to build a new barn in the near future.

The Sumner High School Basket Ball team played a team from the Beulah neighborhood.  The score was 33-6 in favor of the High School team. The boys who played on the High School team were Byron Osborn, center; Rex McVicar and W Holmes, guards; Lloyd Madden and Terrell Jones, forwards.

J. N. Shafer and wife were called to Chicago because of their son, George, who had had two operations in the Wesley Hospital in about a week’s time for an abscess on the kidney. Their other son, Claude, had just returned from the Olney sanitarium where he had been operated on for appendicitis and before he was able to be brought home, he developed pneumonia.

While hauling hay in the Prairieton neighborhood, Richard Ammerman’s team became frightened, dragging him for the sled, breaking three ribs and severely bruising him.

An accident occurred to Ira Stivers when his wife attempting to hasten the fire, threw kerosene in the stove. The blaze flashed on Ira burning him quite severely. 

And there you have it, almost like Facebook isn't it?

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Happenings in Lawrence County January 21 and 22, 1920

January 21 and 22, 1920  Lawrence County News, Lawrenceville Republican and Sumner Press

Because of the war and the scarcity of labor, the Board of Local Improvement had postponed the paving of certain streets in the city of Lawrenceville. Streets under consideration were:
8th from State to Charles
Walnut from 8th  to 10th  and from 11th  to 12th
6th from Jefferson to State
10th from Walnut to Christy
Jefferson from 14th to 15th
Dubois from 11th to 15th
Adams from 12th to 15th
15th from Adams to the B&O railroad
20th  from State to the north line of the Richard Rogers property; this being as far as the city was platted.  This was to be the new entrance to the City cemetery when completed.
(Ed Note: This was the first time any of these streets had been paved. It is unknown by the researcher what type of materials were used for the “paving.” Prior to this time though, they were just dirt or mud depending on the weather conditions. Lawrence Township Road Commissioner, Wm Philbert, stated that all the main roads in his township were improved except about 10 miles.  He estimated it would take $40,000 ‘to pave’ the remainder.

J. A. “Hinky” Montgomery was arrested by Rolla Tewell, a special officer, on a charge of transporting liquor illegally.  Hinky was picked up shortly before midnight on his return from East St Louis and when his suitcase was opened, six quarts of liquor were found.
     Sheriff Stivers took Hinky to Olney where he had a hearing before the U. S. Commissioner.  He admitted having the liquor and said he had brought it for his own use. There being no evidence to the contrary, Hinky was released.
      A charge of bringing liquor into anti-saloon territory was then filed against him by Lawrence County State’s Attorney Huffman; Hinky plead guilty before Judge Fish and was fined $60 and costs.
     The same night Hinky was arrested, a leather trunk arrived on the east-bound train that looked suspicious to Officer Tewell, and he promptly investigated it.  The trunk was built to hold two 5-gallon jugs, but there was only one jug in it and that was filled with whiskey. The railroad authorities did not know the owner of the trunk and the next day, when the officials went to investigate the matter, the trunk was gone and again the station men knew nothing about it.  (Ed. Note:  I don’t know about you, but this sounds highly suspicious to me.)

 (Ed Note: Illinois Law of 1919:  Children between 14-18 years of age who worked, had to attend school 8 hours a week. However children under 14 were expected to attend school daily.) 
      Harrison Jerrell, of the Island school district, was tried in Justice Conover’s court and fined $5 and costs amounting to $18.00  for not sending his boy to school. Jerrell was the custodian of an orphan boy, John Ivie, age 10.   A warrant was issued January 3 on complaint of E. J. Dalrymple, county truant officer.  Mr. Jerrell was arrested and the case set for hearing.   
     Attorney T. H. Cunningham appeared for the defendant and Blaine Huffman represented the state.  The jury was composed of H. D. Rich, J. W. England, J. W. Leach, Marion Wright, Charles E. Steffey and Hugo Seed.  After hearing the evidence that showed the boy in question was out of school in October and November, the jury returned a verdict of guilty. 
       News traveled fast. The next day, Antoine LeGard of Upper Allison, plead guilty to the same charge and paid a fine of $5 and costs. 

Horace E. Lockhart, age 38 years, 8 months and 24 days died at the home of his mother, Mrs. Frank Chickadonz, on south Seventh street on January 18,1920. Hardening of the liver was the cause of death.  He had been an employee of the Lawrence County Lumber Company and had lived in Lawrenceville for a number of years. The body was shipped to his old home in Marshall for burial. 

Funeral services for Mrs Anna B. Snapp were held January 17, 1920, at her home at 510 East Jefferson Street.  Annie Barbara, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Phillip Bible was born at Russellville, Illinois, August 19, 1866. She was 53 years, 5 months, and 28 days.  She was united in marriage to John W. Snapp February 28, 1889, and to this union two children were born. Interment was in the Lawrenceville Cemetery, 1919 Addition, Section 1.    

Alice Gray, daughter of Hugh and Elizabeth Orr, was born July 26, 1851, in Lawrence County and died January 8, 1920, age 68 years, 5 months, and 13 days.  She was united in marriage to William J. Gray January 19, 1870, and resided in Lawrence County until the year 1904, when with her husband and family, she moved to Colfax, Washington. To this union seven children were born, five girls and two boys. She was buried in Colfax. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

O'Dell's General Store Part 3


Chicago Tribune December 25, 1968 Provides Quaint Link with Past continued

Wallpaper Delivered

“One year when the river flooded, he’d drive down the back roads from Vincennes, park on the levee on the east bank of the Wabash, walk down the levee to the old Wabash Cannonball bridge, and cross that old bridge just a half mile north of town,” Mrs. O’Dell recalled.

“Every night Martha Jane, that’s our oldest daughter; she was in the second grade then, and I would walk up to the bridge to meet him. We had a man wallpapering my aunt’s 11-room home at the time and we ran out of paper.  We just called Ray at Vincennes, and he carried the wallpaper along the levee and across the bridge, over that flooded river.”

In this day of shopping centers and supermarkets, a general store is something of an anachronism.  Stepping into O’Dell’s general store is like stepping back into time.  For one thing, you don’t have to pay cash. It’s what they used to call, and still do, a charge store. And you can find just about anything you might need-- shoes, hats, men’s wear, women’s ready-to-wear, yard goods, gift ware, and of course, groceries.

"We get a lot of supplies from Hulman’s up at Terre Haute," said Mrs. O’Dell.  "Everybody thinks of the Indianapolis 500 when they think of Tony Hulman, but the Hulman Company has been supplying stores and groceries for a long, long time."

Still Their Customer

A few years ago, when they shut down their Evansville warehouse, they threw all their customers into a computer.  We came out, so we’re still their customer. They’ve been a lifesaver for us.  We get groceries from them and they still have such things as stove pipe, kerosene, lamps, wicks, and even washboards.  Every once in a while, someone comes in and asks for a washboard.

The hard sell approach is foreign to the O’Dell store, as it is to virtually all general stores in all small towns. Ray will tell you that his wife’s Aunt Maude Collison started the general store in 1932, at the height of the depression, with a capital of $800. Everything she took in, she put back into the store, and finally she had a going business.  You can do anything you set out to do in the country if you put your mind and will and muscle to it, she said.
Ray and Geraldine O'Dell with daughter Kathy Rae,11,
in O'Dell's General Store in St. Francisville, Illinois

Researched by J.  King

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

O'Dell's General Store Part 2

Continued:  article in Chicago Tribune December 25, 1968
Provides Quaint Link with Past 

Father a Lefty

“Father was a southpaw, and he pitched for all the baseball teams around here.  The Chicago White Sox scouted him and he wanted to play baseball, but to Grandfather, who had been a school teacher at Pinhook and Fillmore, that was the same as going with the circus, just throwing your life away.

“Maybe that’s why Father never followed Grandfather in the hardware business.  Father and Uncle Charlie had a Nash auto agency over in Vincennes. They were there in 1925, when a fire broke out in a small grocery in this block. (St. Francisville)  It destroyed three businesses, a house, and a lodge hall,” Mrs. O’Dell recalled.

“Aunt Bessie called Dad in Vincennes that night and told him the building next door was on fire and it looked like our building would go next.  ‘Oh no, it won’t,’ he said. He got hold of the Vincennes fire department, and they sent a truck.

Building Saved

“You could hear them coming down the gravel road on the east side of the river, said Mrs. O’Dell, who was 8 at the time and still has a vivid recollection of that night. The ferry operator was waiting for them.  He brought them over, and they saved the building.

“The fire department,” then Mrs. O’Dell will tell you, “was wholly inadequate, not like it is now; it’s the Dennison township fire department, and one of the best in the country. The police department isn’t what it used to be either. As a matter of fact, St. Francisville has no police, even though an appropriation is made every year for police.”

“I can’t remember any crime here since there hasn’t been a policeman,” said Ray O’Dell.  “I can remember some break-ins, but those were back when we still had police.”

Ray, like his wife, was a half orphan.  His mother died when he was 3 and he was raised by an uncle and an aunt on a farm in Lukin township. He learned cabinet making at Bridgeport High School, came to St. Francisville when he was 21 as a cabinet maker for a lumber yard, and he and Geraldine Griggs were married in 1937.

Ray was working for Montgomery Ward & Co. in Vincennes, and driving home every night, when he and his wife finally took over the general store 15 years ago.

continued tomorrow